Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sinister Omens

David Tennant has insisted that he has no regrets about leaving Doctor Who. The actor told the Radio Times that he had felt emotional when watching his final two-part adventure The End of Time. 'I was at home in London on New Year's Day when I watched my last episode,' he said. '[I felt] a weird mixture of emotions, but above all I was proud to be going out with a bang.' Tennant claimed that he was not worried about being typecast, explaining that playing the Doctor had benefited his career. 'It created many more opportunities than it closed down,' he said. 'My life and career are in a very different place to where they were before Doctor Who and that is ninety per cent positive.' He also admitted to being a fan of his successor Matt Smith. 'I've loved every second it,' he revealed. 'It's a thrill to be watching as a viewer again. I knew Matt was going to be fantastic and he is. He's a great choice and he's knocked it out of the park.'

Simon Cowell has fired The X Factor's vocal coach because of poor performances from Cowell's acts during rehearsals, it has been reported. Cowell is said to have cancelled the contract of Ali Tennant (no relation) and re-hired Yvie Burnett - who had been let go after the last series - as well as appointing Savan Kotecha as the new lead vocal coach. A 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'The new coaches weren't cutting it. The groups have a lot of complicated routines and weren't gelling at all. There are only three days until the live shows but when Simon saw the shambles he fired the new coaches and bought back Yvie. Now the singers only have a few hours each with her to get it right. The show is in chaos.' However, another 'insider' called Tennant's sacking 'totally unfair,' adding: 'There's not much he can do in a week if the acts can't sing.' Tennant claimed that the decision came as a shock and expressed his disappointment that he had been given no explanation for the axe. His manager Alex Field said: 'Ali proved popular not only with the contestants but also with the judges.' Although, seemingly, not that popular with at least one of them. 'He was the only vocal coach to be invited by Simon Cowell to his house in Malaga for the selection stage. He was extremely surprised his contract was terminated without notice.'

TV presenter and comedian Sue Perkins has called on broadcasters to give more realistic portrayals of gay and lesbian people with fewer of the obvious clichés. Perkins - who was publicly outed as a lesbian in 2002 by her ex-girlfriend Rhona Cameron during Cameron's appearance on ITV's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! - said that soap operas hold the key to changing perceptions of gay lifestyles. Last week, the BBC published a lengthy report on how audiences feel gay, lesbian and bisexual people are portrayed on television. Writing in a comment piece in the Gruniad Morning Star, Sue noted that the BBC and Channel 4 fared well in the report, with largely positive views on their portrayals. However, the report also indicated that there was more work to be done as the majority of non-Hetero people wanted TV shows to give more authentic depictions of their lifestyles rather than tokenism. Perkins suggested that soap operas are the programmes that can really change perceptions because they are 'watched by millions of middle Englanders week after week. In 1987, EastEnders' Barry and Colin shared a chaste mouth-graze. In 1994, Brookside's Beth and Margaret locked lips. Coronation Street discovered lesbians this year,' she said. For which, hey, we're all grateful. 'If gay history had evolved as slowly and timidly as television portrayed it, then the first drag queen would be tiptoeing out of the primordial ooze around about now.' Very true. Echoing the findings of the report, Perkins called for an end to the predominance of gay stereotypes on TV, such as 'butch-femme' lesbians or 'camp' gay men. She said that gay-centric dramas such as Sugar Rush and Queer as Folk have compensated for the stereotype-heavy portrayals, while BBC3's upcoming Lip Service shows promise. However, Perkins claimed that ground will only be truly be broken if a 'middle way' can be found that depicts the real lives of gay people on mainstream television. '[Its] something between the tepid sexlessness of the soaps' queer couplings and the separatist universe of the US show The L Word, in which the characters are like something out of the Barbie Lesbian Range: the tennis pro with detachable miniskirt, the hairdresser with blow-drier,' she said. 'For me the solution is less 'L' word than 'I' word. Issues. Gay characters are a gift because they can deliver the shock value that soap operas are hardwired to. But surely, by normalising rather than pathologising gay culture you please not only gay respondents, but the nineteen per cent of heterosexual viewers that the report reveals are still squeamish about our presence on their screens. When gay characters stop cat-hoarding, scatter-cushion throwing and compulsively shagging - when we're just sitting around paying bills like Average Jos - then middle England, and the Queer Nation, will be happy.'

Shappi Khorsandi is to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Winchester. The Iranian-born comedian studied in the university when it was known as King Alfred's College. She graduated in 1995 with a degree in drama, theatre and television. Professor Elizabeth Stuart, pro vice chancellor at the university, said: 'We are delighted to be able to honour Shappi Khorsandi. She is a wonderful role model to all our students because she had a dream – to be a comedian – and she pursued it relentlessly until she was successful. Humour can be an incisive way of analysing the world and Shappi brings both her extraordinary early story and the ordinary life of a woman and mother to bear in her comedy.'

Channel 4 is to broadcast a 'dramatised documentary' based on the theoretical scenario of Prince Harry being taken prisoner whilst serving in Afghanistan. The ninety-minute film, titled The Taking of Prince Harry, will depict the prince being held by the Taliban as negotiations are carried out to secure his release. Sebastian Reid, the actor playing the prince, will be shown in the film facing a mock execution and being forced to appear in Taliban and al-Qaeda propaganda. The programme will also feature contributions from intelligence experts and former hostages. Harry was deployed in Afghanistan's Helmand province in December 2007, but his presence was kept a closely-guarded secret over fears he could become a target for the Taliban. The prince spent ten weeks in the country as a forward air controller until his deployment was leaked on the Internet, leading to him being flown home in March 2008. Speaking to the Press Association, Channel 4's head of documentaries Hamish Mykura said that Buckingham Palace had been informed about the film, but had not seen it. Mykura also dismissed any suggestion that the programme would increase the risk of high-profile kidnappings around the world. 'I think it is just wrong to say that this would create a new idea that wasn't there already,' he said.

The acclaimed TV historian Simon Schama was yesterday appointed by the coalition government as an advisor on education. The education secretary, Michael Gove, announced that Schama, the renowned academic who presents the BBC series A History of Britain, will advise ministers on teaching. Gove said that the move will ensure no pupil leaves school without learning 'narrative British history.' Schama, a professor at Columbia University, said that he hopes to bring 'excitement and joy' to the education curriculum. 'A return to coherent, gripping history is not a step backwards to dry-as-dust instruction,' he said. 'It represents a moment of cultural and educational rediscovery.' In a recent interview with David Cameron, professor Schama urged the prime minister to make improvements to the teaching of history in schools.

In an interesting example of life imitating art the BBC's BAFTA-award winning espionage thriller, [spooks], is going to Russia. Literally. Now in its ninth season [spooks] is a perennial and popular prime time favourite. This week BBC Worldwide signed a deal with FOX Television which will see the drama broadcast across the CIS and the Baltic states. Hopefully, they won't take all of the nasty Russian characters in the show too seriously otherwise we could be in the middle of a proper diplomat situation! For the last two years one of the central characters in the drama has been Lukas North, played by Richard Armitage (see right), who spent eight years in a Russian gulag, and various plotlines of the show have included conflict between the British and Russian security services - the most recent in the last episode. Russian audiences will now have the chance to see what British TV viewers think they're all about. 'We are very excited to be bringing [spooks] to Russia and the other CIS and Baltic nations' said Olga Zhurova, channel editor for FOX International Channels. 'The Cold War may long be over but we think our channel’s viewers are going to be fascinated by such a high quality drama about Western spies and the inner workings of the British Security Service.' In addition to [Spooks], FOX TV have also acquired the popular forensic thriller Silent Witness, starring Amanda Burton. In BBC Worldwide's largest ever sale to Russia, Channel Five has acquired Sherlock and over two hundred hours of mixed-genre programming across factual areas including history, science and natural history. Also, Russia's Kultura channel has picked up eight hours of programming including History of Science, Wonder of the Solar System, Lennon Naked and Muddle Earth, whilst Slovak TV has bought a fifty two hour package including natural history blockbusters Life and The Human Planet. Nice to see that the BBC is held in such high regard in the former Soviet Bloc whilst it's own government seem intent on castrating it to death. Heike Renner, BBC Worldwide's territory manager for Eastern and Central Europe and CIS said: 'We are thrilled to announce such a high volume of sales across genres to Eastern and Central Europe. From contemporary drama to science and natural history, it's a huge testament to the quality, innovation and diversity of British television.'

Dermot O'Dreary has brushed aside the suggestion that The X Factor is exploitative. The talent show host told Metro that contestants must look to themselves if they fail to progress in the competition. O'Dreary said: 'If you go to a talent show and you don't make the grade it's not the person who is judging you who is at fault if you don't get through on the day. You have to take responsibility for what you're doing.' Asked about contestants with mental health issues and the presence of alleged prostitute Chloe Victoria, he added: 'We have a good level of after-care and you can't police the amount of people who turn up to audition. There are two hundred and twenty thousand applying every year. With Chloe, as Simon said, there was nothing in the rules that said prostitutes can't apply for The X Factor - it's nothing to do with us what the applicants do for a living.'

The Apprentice star Karren Brady has described Lord Alan Sugar as 'a charmer.' She missed out the words 'right, bleeding' but, yeah, I'd go along with that. Brady, who has joined the reality show as one the multi-millionaire's advisers, said that her past business deals with Sugar in the world of football had always been 'clean fights.' The duo first met when Brady worked at Birmingham City and Sugar was chairman of Tottingham Hotshots in the 1990s. When asked whether she found Sugar intimidating to deal with, Brady told the Daily Telegraph: 'Frightening? No. He's always been incredibly charming, honest, friendly. We had quite a few run-ins, as well. We always had a clean fight. He says he got the better of me, but I'm not sure that's true.' Meanwhile, Sugar joked that Brady only thought she had got the better of him in business deals because he allowed her to think so. 'That's how I'm so clever in my business acumen in making the other person think that they've got a good deal,' he said. Yeah. Works with customers, as well. As more than one owner of a bust Amstrad stereo will undoubtedly confirm.

In an absolutely thigh-slappingly funny episode of MasterChef: The Professionals, talented-but-far-too-full-of-himself cocky Kevin's 'personal journey' came to an abrupt end with all of the inevitability of a car crash. Not so much a journey, per se, more a short trip. Flat on his face. Renaud, the most French Frenchman in the history of TV (he even served his food wearing a beret) was also knocked out, along with the earlier Ben and Arun. That left nervous Durham Dave and Big Claire who bursts into tears on a regular basis to progress to the semi-finals after two fascinating rounds, which included Jay Rayner and friends being beastly about their nosh. Which is always entertaining, let's face it.

Channel 4 has bought the UK rights to romantic adventure series Camelot. The broadcaster will show the ten-episode show, featuring Jamie Campbell Bower and Joseph Fiennes, in 2011. Camelot stars Bower as Arthur, Fiennes as Merlin and Tamsin Egerton as Guinevere. A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: 'Camelot will be based on Thomas Malory's Fifteenth Century book Le Morte d'Arthur, [which is] still considered the definitive work on the subject.' Ooo, I think Tennyson might have something to say about that, bonny lad. I mean, you've got The Lady of Shalott for a kick-off. Remember that one? It was about Lancelot. Who went a lot. To Camelot. Anyway... 'Camelot will weave authenticity into a modern telling of the Arthur legends that is relatable to contemporary audiences,' they concluded. Is 'relatable' a real word? The series is currently in production in Ireland, and is a joint venture between Irish production company Octagon and Canada's Take 5 Productions.

Jurassic Park actor Sam Neill has criticised New Zealand's government for getting involved in an ongoing row over The Hobbit. Production on Peter Jackson's movie is in jeopardy after unions urged New Zealand's actors to boycott the films over pay issues. On Monday, the country's prime minister, John Key, said that the government was holding discussions with the key parties. But Neill told a local newspaper: 'The last thing we need here is for the situation to be politicised.' In September, Jackson warned that if the dispute continued then the two-film Lord of the Rings prequel could be filmed outside his home country. In an open letter he said the wrangle was 'a grab for power' and an attempt by 'Australian bully-boy acting unions' to exert influence over New Zealand's film industry. Earlier this week, Key said he would be 'greatly concerned' if the film left New Zealand. Neill, a New Zealand native, told the Otago Daily Times: 'Unless they wish to calm the situation or indeed mediate, our politicians should absolutely be quiet.' The actor made an appeal for calm, and said the situation should be resolved amicably. 'I am dismayed to read how serious and how unnecessarily charged this dispute has become over the last few days,' he said. 'We are seeing too much anger and hysteria all round and it doesn't help to have lots of people yelling from the sideline. This is not hard. Shaking hands and a cup of tea should do it.' It is believed that Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee and Arts and Culture Minister Chris Finlayson met Jackson earlier this week. The director won seventeen Oscars for his Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was largely filmed in New Zealand. He is producing The Hobbit, also based on a novel by JRR Tolkien, and is widely expected to also direct it after Guillermo Del Toro left the project. The two-part movie has yet to be given the go-ahead by Hollywood studios, but the Los Angeles Times has reported that a deal could be close to being sealed.

The UK's advertising watchdog has cleared Sony over a television advert that attracted more than fifty complaints for depicting a child spitting. The advert, for Sony Internet TV, featured two teams of children playing football in a massive stadium packed with spectators. The shot then switched to the same children playing in a park, before the strapline said, 'Imagine reliving the greatest games.' However, fifty six incredibly stupid viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about a section of the advert featuring a young boy spitting on the ground after a shot on goal had been saved. The complainants felt that the child spitting was 'offensive' and risked causing 'harmful emulation of anti-social behaviour because it glamorised the act.' And, again, just to repeat ... the crap that some morons chose to care about. Sony UK said that it regretted any offence caused by the advert, which was not intended to condone spitting but poke gentle fun at 'one of the less attractive aspects of the national game.' Clearcast, the body that cleared the advert, expressed its surprise at the complaints as spitting 'was what many footballers on telly did and had done for a very long time.' Despite noting that spitting was 'distasteful to some,' the ASA opted to dismiss the complaints after deciding that the advert was not in breach of the advertising code. The watchdog noted that the spitting sequence was 'very brief' and appeared in context of the premise of children emulating professional footballers. The ASA also said that the advert's scenario was 'clearly fantastical' and therefore unlikely to glamorise the act of spitting or encourage copycat behaviour. And, that even if it did, who honestly gives a bloody monkey's chuff end about such nonsense. Except glakes.

The women's website Jezebel has started a petition calling for the ABC Family show Huge to be rescued. The series, which starred Nikki Blonsky and Hayley Hasselhoff, focused on a group of people at a weight-loss camp. However, it was cancelled by ABC Family earlier this week. Jezebel has now called for the programme to be saved and has praised the show for representing overweight people in a realistic way. 'Entertainment comes in so many different forms: police dramas, hospital shows, teen soaps, spy thrillers and overweight characters are few and far between,' writer Dodai Stewart said. Referring to new sitcom Mike & Molly, she continued: 'Fat people can be on a scripted show, as long as fat is the punchline. Huge was different, of course, because although the show was about teenagers at a weight-loss camp, weight loss was actually just a fraction of the issues the kids (and adults) were dealing with. The characters juggled dilemmas relating to crushes, self-confidence, popularity, rumours, toxic friendships, sexual urges, family drama, jealousy, embarrassment, sexual orientation, creativity, lying, cheating, rebellion, body odour, nerdiness and body image. In other words, it reminded us that fat people are people. Humans.' She added: 'Teenagers are so susceptible to negative thoughts (and messages) about their bodies. Huge created a world in which your body matters, but it's not the only thing to focus on. The characters, played by actual overweight teens, were smart, creative, funny, athletic, caring and generous. So much more than just fat." So far, over five thousand people have signed the petition to save Huge from cancellation. And, if they can get about another two million ABC might, just, take them seriously.